Justine Staff member at GBBC Budleigh Beach 2017 Andrew J Brown

Now the UK is no longer part of the EU, it is making its own laws and regulations when it comes to fishing and the marine environment. Let’s make sure those laws are fit-for-purpose, delivering seas full of life.

What advocacy is the Marine Conservation Society doing?

We are doing all we can to ensure our marine environment is managed in the best way possible and that new environmental legislation and policies are ambitious and robust. We are responding to management consultations and working proactively with other charities and organisations to provide advice for UK fisheries. We are carrying out this important work at both a UK-wide level and also separately with the Scottish and Welsh administrations.

We are working in coalition with Wildlife and Countryside Link in England, Welsh Environment Link, Scottish Environment Link, and the Northern Irish Marine Task Force where we have helped develop briefings and recommendations related to Brexit. We are also engaging policy makers and politicians, meeting regularly with civil servants and ministers. We are on hand to give advice and recommendations and ask pertinent questions about the future management of our seas.

Our priorities for UK seas

The UK has the fourth longest coastline in Europe, and our waters and many of the species that dwell within them know no boundaries. We must make a joined-up effort with our neighbouring nations if we are to keep improving the management of our seas. As a UK-based and focused marine charity, we work tirelessly to make sure the UK uses this opportunity to become a world leader and build on the good progress made in many areas of marine management.

Our priorities:

  • Ensure new domestic fisheries laws deliver sustainability.
  • Complete an ecologically coherent network of well-managed marine protected areas.
  • Uphold and effectively implement into UK laws all our obligations under international environmental treaties, so they can be carried out through the laws of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland and be legally enforceable.
  • Continue to take action to reduce marine litter – in particular, implement the Circular Economy Package, carry out our plastics strategy, and make reforms to the Port Waste Reception Facilities Directive.
  • Protect vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems from damaging fishing practices.

Securing sustainable Welsh fisheries

Fishing is an important part of Welsh heritage and culture. It provides jobs and money to the Welsh economy and is a popular recreational activity.

Welsh commercial fisheries are quite different from the rest of the UK. Other home nations mostly fish with nets to catch the likes of herring or cod. Welsh boats mostly fish with pots for shellfish like scallops and whelks – although, the numbers and locations of these pots are currently unknown, due to fisheries not currently being fully documented.

In June 2020, we responded to the Welsh Government’s whelk consultation to support the implementation of annual catch limits and improved, science-driven stock assessments. We also played an active role in the introduction of the Scallop Fishing (Wales) Order, helping to protect king scallops from being overfished.

However, post-Brexit, how and what we fish for in Wales may change. The main fisheries law – the Common Fisheries Policy – no longer applies to us now we've left the European Union.

Under the terms of the new UK Fisheries Act, Wales is responsible for developing a Joint Fisheries Statement that could put sustainable fishing first for all who fish in Welsh waters and guarantee better management of Welsh fish stocks. This is particularly important for the development of new Welsh fisheries, like lumpfish aquaculture, and for legislation for species that don’t have specific laws, like crustaceans.

As part of the UK Fisheries Act, the Welsh Government will be tasked with jointly developing the Joint Fisheries Statement and Wales' own Fisheries Act. Unless we know who is fishing where, and what’s being caught, landed and discarded, we cannot manage our fisheries sustainably.

We want these policies to include:

  • Targets to end overfishing, bycatch and entanglement of our protected species.
  • Fully transparent, accountable and documented fishing, aided by remote electronic monitoring (REM) to help with management and stop illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.
  • A ban on damaging bottom trawling and dredging activities in protected areas set up for benthic (bottom) habitats and species.
  • A new flexible vessel licensing system that incentivises sustainable fishing practices.

Our priorities for Scottish seas

The continental shelf limit offshore of Scotland makes up 62% of domestic UK seas. Its management is a devolved matter. Our Scottish team has been campaigning for the reform of scallop fishing, building on thousands of public responses calling for a low-impact zone to be established in Scotland's inshore waters. We also led calls for a new fisheries strategy in Scotland, which was published in December 2020.

We’re leading the Save Scottish Seas coalition, which has already helped secure protection from bottom trawling and dredging in the most vulnerable inshore Marine Protected Areas. And we are calling for the transformation of fisheries management in the Scotland Ocean Recovery Plan, which will require the introduction of new policies and, where necessary, devolved legislation to support a just transition to a modern, world-leading climate and nature-friendly fishing industry that includes:

  • Binding targets to end overfishing and eliminate the bycatch and entanglement of non-target and protected species.
  • A requirement for fully documented fisheries, delivered through remote electronic monitoring (with cameras) to improve data collection and help to end illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
  • A mechanism to improve inshore fisheries governance and the transition to a new spatial management regime, which includes a presumption against trawling and dredging in a significant part of Scotland’s inshore water.
  • A new vessel licensing system that allocates fishing opportunities according to transparent and objective environmental, social and economic criteria, to incentivise the most sustainable fishing practices.

What’s next?

We will:

  • Respond to any future consultations relating to environmental management strategies.
  • Continue working on the development of the Environment Bill.
  • Continue to work in coalition with the charities on the Greener UK Fisheries and Aquaculture Pillar and the various Environment Links of the United Kingdom, to develop agreed positions and provide joint briefings and submissions.
  • Continue to meet with civil servants, UK ministers and the devolved administrations to provide advice and recommendations and ask key questions about future management arrangements.
  • Participate in new and existing stakeholder working groups to influence the sustainable management of environmental resources.
  • Continue to engage the public and encourage them to support and call for better-managed UK seas and sustainable fisheries and responsible aquaculture (see the Good Fish Guide).
  • Continue to work with OSPAR to ensure the Regional Action Plan on marine litter is also implemented in the UK.
  • Make sure any new regulatory body has the power to ensure environmental laws and standards are upheld and more effective in the future.

Consultation responses and policy papers

See more consultation responses and policy papers

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